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Ten Common Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptoms

By Edited May 23, 2015 0 0

It’s been weeks since you’ve had a normal bowel movement. You have so much gas that you’re starting to wonder how you’ll ever be able to share a room during that group vacation. Or, maybe, you make so much noise on the toilet that even going to a public restroom is becoming an ordeal. You might be wondering, “What’s wrong?”

If this sounds familiar, it would be wise to seek some medical help. While the majority of intestinal issues that one will encounter will be temporary in nature, such as traveler’s diarrhea; it could also be Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is actually a term that encompasses several bowel diseases, with the major forms being Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis. Both diseases are characterized by inflammation in the intestines and many unpleasant symptoms. These diseases may be familiar to you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IBD occurs in approximately 396 of 100,000 people worldwide[1]. Unfortunately, current studies point to an increased prevalence of IBD[2].

That being said, how can you tell if what your symptoms are more than just traveler’s diarrhea? To help you, here is a list of the ten most telltale signs of IBD in adults. I, myself, have been diagnosed with IBD for fifteen years and have experienced every single symptom listed.

Credit: By Shawn Ford from Corning, United States of America (outhouse) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Frequent diarrhea

The inflammation in IBD hinders the uptake of water in the colon, causing diarrhea. Inflammation waxes and wanes in IBD and so does the ensuing diarrhea. Patients experience “remission” periods of little diarrhea followed by relapses called “flares.” Although the diarrhea may wax and wane, IBD stool is rarely normal even during remission, and a flare can keep them tied to a toilet for days.

2. Increased gas

Intestinal bacteria create gastrointestinal gas when they digest particles of food that you eat. Many patients experience more and smellier gas. Studies looking at the gas composition of farts collected from healthy individuals and those with IBD have shown that gas from IBD patients is, indeed, different[3].

3. Abdominal cramping

IBD patients have more abdominal cramping. This is the result of increased gas, active intestinal inflammation and intestinal blockages.

4. Abdominal noise

Going to lectures or recitals can be difficult for IBD patients when their guts get noisy. Due to increased intestinal water and gas, their guts can create quite a bubbly commotion.

5. Weight loss

Though this might sound like a positive thing, it’s not for IBD patients. Weight loss in IBD can be caused by several factors: inability to absorb nutrients, lack of appetite and the presence of severe inflammation. Weight loss can sometimes become severe.

6. Mucus in stool

Mucus is produced by cells of the intestine to protect the inner intestinal wall from too much contact with the inner fecal matter. During inflammation, more mucus is produced than usual. It can sometimes be seen as a whitish fluid mixed in with the stool.

7. Blood in stool

When inflammation in the intestines is severe, ulcers form, which when irritated can release blood. Blood can sometimes be seen mixed in with the stool. Very dark stools are sometimes also an indication of blood.

8. Arthritis

Due to the severe systemic inflammation caused in IBD. Inflammation can present itself in other areas of the body. Approximately 25% of IBD patients develop painful, swollen joints[4].

Nude Scratching Her Back
Credit: Edgar Degas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

9. Skin disorders

Like arthritis above, the skin is also a common victim in IBD. Skin issues like eczema and sensitive dry skin develop in about 20% of the patients[5].

10. Eye inflammation

Another very common extra-intestinal manifestation is inflammation in the eye. The eye sometimes becomes red and inflamed in 10% of the patients[6].

Just a general observation of symptoms is not a firm diagnosis for IBD. To be certain, an internal specialist will need to perform several blood tests and a colonoscopy. This really sounds much worse than it is. Remember, the sooner you know what's wrong, the sooner you can get treatment and start feeling better. 

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  1. "Impact IBD." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 16/04/2013 <Web >
  2. Molodecky NA, Soon IS, Rabi DM, Ghali WA, Ferris M, Chernoff G, Benchimol EI, Panaccione R, Ghosh S, Barkema HW, Kaplan GG "Increasing incidence and prevalence of the inflammatory bowel diseases with time, based on systematic review.." Gastroenterology. 142 (2011): 46-54.
  3. Probert CS "Role of faecal gas analysis for the diagnosis of IBD." Biochemical Society Transactions. 39 (2011): 1079-1080.
  4. "Arthritis." Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America . 16/04/2013 <Web >
  5. "Skin Complications of IBD." Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. 16/04/2013 <Web >
  6. "Eye Complications." Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. 16/04/2013 <Web >

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